The Basset hound is undeniably one of the most charming breeds of dogs we have today. It is also one of the most unusual in its physical characteristics, being a solid heavy-weight animal that sits relatively low to the ground under thick, stumpy legs. It remains one of the six recognized breeds of Basset in France.
The Basset hound is a scent hound that was bred for hunting hare and rabbits. Its acute sense of smell is only eclipsed by the Bloodhound. The word Basset has its origins from the French word bas, and combined with the suffix et, means “rather low.”
Physical CharacteristicsBassets have heavy compacted frames that are low to the ground and very long. In extreme cases they can grow up to 4 feet long but stand only 12 to 14 inches high. They have a hooked saber-like tail. The skin structure hangs loosely, especially around the neck and face regions, portraying a sad, drooping appearance that is part of its attraction and charm. It has a characteristically large hound nose, filled with highly sensitive olfactory cells. The legs are short due to a form of dwarfism, and heavily muscled, belaying a powerful stance and running ability. The ears are the longest of any breed, pear-shaped and drooping. The neck has folds of loose skin and is typically wider than the head. The muzzle is long and powerfully set.
The coat of the Basset is smooth and short, covering the entire body. Coloration includes black, white and tans in any combination of bicolor or tricolors. The tan color can differ in hues, ranging from red to reddish brown to lemon. White and lemon is not a common color and rarely occurs. There are some classifications of blue and gray Bassets but the condition is rare and sometimes considered undesirable.
TemperamentThe Basset breed is surprisingly cordial and a friendly companion people. They serve as excellent companions for children, often engaging in playful tug-of-wars or fetch. The dog only becomes solitary when it needs its privacy away from pestering children and loud noises. These dogs are easy to train because they are food-driven, willing to obey commands and learn tricks in exchange for sumptuous treats. They do not respond well to physical punishment and may shut down or act stubbornly if pushed too hard or mistreated.
Since Bassets are primarily scent hounds, they can be expected to smell every nook and cranny while on a walk. Walks and outdoor activities require a leach to keep them near since they are prone to investigate any interesting smell. Regular exercise keeps them healthy and fit since they may resort to sleeping most of the day and become active only when fed. Once they suspect the presence or threat of an intruder, they are apt to be very vocal, emitting a throaty bark.
They can also produce a prolonged howl that may become nerve-racking to neighbors and some owners, but it is their natural way of sounding an alarm. They have an instinctive drive to pack hunt and track smaller animals and can become quite distracted and excited in doing so. They may howl when on the scent and wear themselves out pursuing a prey animal.
Care & GroomingRegular exercise is the Basset’s best remedy for keeping fit and avoiding excess weight. They will tend to gorge themselves and gain weight fast if overfed. Their low profile and heavy body weight makes it difficult for them to jump down from high places without potential injury to their legs and hips. Dropping or tossing puppies should be avoided since doing so could cause permanent injuries that may last through adulthood. Their diet should be free of fillers and grains that may contribute to skin conditions and allergies. They should be bathed more often than some breeds because of their sensitive skin issues and tendency to shed to excess. Regular grooming with a brush will keep loose hairs from shedding as well as distribute natural body oils throughout the coat.
The eyes, ears and mouth are weak spots for the Basset. Their eyes should be wiped daily with a damp cloth to remove debris and excess mucus. This aids in preventing serious eye irritation or disease. The ears often hang down low to the ground, picking up all sorts of debris and contaminants. The ears often fall into the food bowls, becoming laden with food particles that if not cleaned, may produce odors and bacteria. Likewise, the mouth region can accumulate yeast that becomes trapped in the skin folds due to a constant state of drooling. The mouth area should be wiped several times daily with a dry towel, along with an application of talcum powder.
HistoryThe origin of the Basset hound can be traced to France, with descendents of St Hubert’s hounds of Belgium first showing up in the 6th century. They were bred in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hubert and became “St. Hubert’s Hound” somewhere around 1000AD. They were recognized and described as deep mouthed, short-legged, with a straight nose, small head and erect ears. Colorings were either black with tan or white with tan markings. They were used to aid hunters on foot and on horseback in the pursuit of badgers, foxes, hares and other small animals. They were praised and admired for their determination to run prey to ground.
The French version of the Basset debuted in La Venerie, in an illustrated hunting book penned by Jacques du Fouilloux in 1585. The dog resulted from a mutation from the Norman Staghound litters which came from St. Hubert’s Hound. The breed became very popular for hunting around 1789, after the French Revolution. Basset hounds were introduced to the United States when Marquis de Lafayette gifted then President George Washington with a number of specimens for use in hunting expeditions.